Column: Realtors Making Lemonade


By Suzanne Armstrong

Realtors look at houses differently, than most peoples. If you have ever had the experience of walking into an open house with a group of brokers, you a good number of compliments and also an array of constructive criticisms which a ‘critique de maison’. Upon entering the charming abode, their hands will fly up in the air to gauge the ceiling heights, along with a discerning eye glancing up to size up the molding; noses will raise in the air, in an olfactory sniff test for traces of scented candles, baked goods, and other tantalizing, but often, camouflaging scents that the homeowner or listing broker has put into play to mask a bit of mildew; railings will be jiggled for durability and code, and doors will be tapped of for an evaluation of their solidity. I have to say that it is quite amusing really, but as an exercise, I must admit, that I myself am guilty of performing this ritual on many a home. It is not that we as brokers are trying to tear a house apart at first encounter, but rather we are taking mental notes and tallying them to assess the true value of a listing, and whether or not we want to immediately dial up our clients to book a showing appointment for that day.

When I first partnered-up with my mother-in-law Pam Armstrong, I clearly remember her saying that “when it comes to homes, at a certain price everything can become a plus”.

I was amused when she explained this, but then saw it happen time and time again, throughout my years as a Realtor. There can be issues with a property that have been the downfall of the listing, yet when the property finally hits the optimal selling price, all of a sudden a rainbow shines over the house and the angels’ trumpets sound, and the problems vanish like magic. By this I mean, my buyers start looking at all the negatives of the home as positives, because they see the house as finally attainable, and thus, as finally theirs; they are now no longer looking at the glass half empty, but rather half full, and they want to drink it!

For instance, I will never forget one of my first selling experiences which exemplified this. Sitting on a flat piece of land, there was this perfect little colonial that had a fabulous layout and all the charm in the world, yet it was by the Merritt Parkway. Although you did have some ambient noise, it did check 7 of the 10 wish list boxes for our client. Never-the-less, despite it fitting the 7 out of 10 requirement punch list that we lived by, our clients couldn’t yet pull the trigger on making an offer.

As the fall season was coming to an end and the leaves started their downward dance, the owners of the home decided to take a big price reduction on their property.  We took our clients to revisit the property at this point, and it was beautiful! The paint looked brighter, the lawn looked larger, but most of all, the Merritt became our friend; no longer was it a noisy highway, but rather a quick way to get into the city or up to Fairfield; the highway noise was a reason to install the ‘always wanted’ decorative garden fountain. The proximity to the Merritt had become a bonus rather than a bummer.

I share the above story with buyers and you for one reason, and that is to look at properties with an open heart and mind. Put on the rose-colored glasses and an air of optimism when walking through the door of a new residence.  Jack’n’Jill bathrooms rather than private en-suite are easier to clean; electric fireplaces rather than wood burning don’t require lugging cords of wood; low 8’ ceilings can instill an air of coziness; smaller lawns are less to mow; no central a/c is more fresh air with open windows and fans; cemeteries mean light, trees and no complaining neighbors; a smaller house means lower utility bills.

As you can see by the above examples, at the right price, all items can look wonderful. So, don’t rule out an investment or a home because of certain factors. Remember, if you can deal with certain concessions, so can someone else when the time comes for you to sell. You of course don’t want to overpay for a property with a deficit, but at the right price the deficit becomes less important and often disappears.

Buyers are well educated these days with a plethora of real estate information available through various sites; everyone knows the “true” value of a property, so if you see something that checks most of the boxes, make a fair offer and try to make lemonade out of a few lemons you may have to deal with.

Suzanne Armstrong is a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker where she has been a member of the President’s Circle for top agents.

Tags: ,